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Lakers newsletter: Lakers’ championship sprint begins

All-Star forwards Anthony Davis, left, and LeBron James will continue their quest for an NBA championship when the Lakers resume play on Friday against Memphis.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, this is Tania Ganguli, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, here with your Lakers newsletter.

With the All-Star break over, the urgency of spring is here. For Lakers players, that means approaching the rest of the season with the laser focus of a team set on winning a championship. For the Lakers’ front office that means the final few opportunities to improve the team.

What’s been clear is that though they didn’t consider any players off limits aside from All-Star forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis, they aren’t interested in making wholesale changes to the roster. They’ve liked the chemistry this team has since early this season and it’s a group that grew even closer as they dealt with the unexpected death of Kobe Bryant. There are few holes on the team, but any deficiency can be the difference when it comes to winning a championship.

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The Lakers have made efforts to address those, but again were cognizant of the cost. They weren’t willing to give up the players and draft picks the New York Knicks asked for in exchange for forward Marcus Morris, who would have helped them in certain defensive situations. They missed out on Andre Iguodala via trade too. They weren’t able to acquire Darren Collison, who would have given them the additional ball handler they need, because he opted to stay retired in the few days after being publicly fussed over at a recent game. They had interest in Reggie Jackson, whom the Detroit Pistons bought out, but he had his heart set on joining the Clippers to play with his close friend Paul George.

Whether they made the right decisions will unfold during the next few months. There are still a few chances to sign players. The buyout market essentially closes on March 1 — that’s the last date players can be waived while still being eligible for the playoffs with another team. But with the best record in the Western Conference, the Lakers have evidence to back their faith in what they already have.

Last week was all about the All-Star break. We’ll catch up on that soon. First, a note about an event I checked out last weekend.

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A different way to reach kids

All-Star weekend also offers the chance for collaboration. One was between Rich Paul and Chance the Rapper for an event in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago that they hoped would encourage local high school kids to pursue big goals in real ways.

“Kids aspire to be the person at the highest level but it’s because the lack of understanding of what actually exists about the infrastructure of a business,” Paul said before addressing the gathered high school students. “Everyone wants to be Jeff Bezos because he’s the wealthiest man in the world. But they don’t understand Jeff, he actually has an infrastructure of people that actually runs the company of Amazon and you can be one of those people.”

Paul hoped to be able to relate his business success story for kids in that audience. He’s someone very relevant to the Lakers for the last few years. His agency, Klutch Sports, represents LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and rookie Talen Horton-Tucker. Ten years ago Klutch Sports didn’t exist, but it has become more and more powerful. in the last few years.

As Paul told his familiar story to the assembled teens, he mentioned a high school kid about 20 years ago reaching out to him. The crowd gasped at the reveal — that kid was LeBron James.

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His past has been written about a lot. In chatting with Paul before the event, I got a small glimpse into his life now.

He had just been to his daughter’s cotillion. Reonna is 17 and her friends tell her how impressed they are with her dad. Paul spends time talking with them if they want that. Although she doesn’t always agree about his coolness (like when he dances), she’s been asking lately about the business. That seemed to mean a lot to Paul.

“At her cotillion she was actually watching a basketball game on her phone,” Paul said. “So that lets me know she’s serious.”

Since we last spoke ...

  • Our Broderick Turner sat down with Pau Gasol, who discussed his relationship with Kobe Bryant. Gasol saw Bryant like a brother in the truest sense of the word. There was love and there was button-pushing.
  • The Lakers would love to be the top-seeded team heading into the playoffs, and they probably will be. But history has shown that LeBron James-led teams don’t need that in order to reach their championship goals.
  • This summer’s Hall of Fame inductees were always going to be special because it included Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. The Hall of Fame announcement was more somber than normal because of Bryant’s passing. Now the committee has a difficult task ahead of them. They must find a way to honor Bryant while also properly acknowledging this year’s inductees.
  • As he recovered from injury, Brandon Ingram began to develop a regular routine. It helped him even as he got healthy. Now he’s an All Star. I asked Ingram about his development during an NBA Cares event at All-Star weekend.
  • Here’s a compilation of some of the sights and sounds of All-Star weekend.
  • Adam Silver announced that the All-Star game MVP trophy would be renamed in honor of Kobe Bryant.
  • It was meaningful for Dwight Howard to have Jameer Nelson help him in the dunk contest because his former Orlando Magic teammate helped him in every dunk contest he’s done. His original plan, though, was for Kobe Bryant to assist him.
  • All-Star weekend was a homecoming for Patrick Beverley and Anthony Davis, who are both from Chicago.
  • Our Dan Woike compiled quotes from people who knew Bryant or watched him in various capacities. He asked them to share what was, in their opinion, Bryant’s best game ever.
  • Video journalist Mark Potts created this piece about Bryant tributes throughout All-Star weekend. I wrote about how the weekend served as a tribute.
  • LeBron James is supposed to be on a break, but he dove into the discussion about the Astros anyway.
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Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at tania.ganguli@latimes.com, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!


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